Thursday, September 09, 2010


This is virtually a remake (unofficially) of WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD, with a slightly different focus. Teenager Jesse lives with his mom and older brother in a ramshackle home. When the brother loses his job, Jesse leaves, going on the road, hoping to make some money. He meets up with a gang of thieving teenage hobos; they beat him up, but he joins up with them anyway. Their leader, Tim, doesn’t quite trust Jesse, thinking he might be a snitch reporting back to the police; he’s not, but still, the cops catch up to them and the boys are sentenced to a labor camp, working at harvesting turpentine from trees. It doesn’t seem so bad at first, and the boys are able to buy things at the company store on credit, but Jesse soon wises up to the fact that they’ll be in debt to the company for years. Things get worse until one of the boys falls out of a tree and has to have an arm amputated. Jesse and Tim try to organize a revolt (Jesse even writes a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt about their conditions), but it fails, their cabin catches fire, and in a truly shocking twist, Jesse is shot dead by a guard. In a rushed ending, similar to that of WILD BOYS, a sympathetic judge sets the boys up in a federal farm camp and sends the head of the turpentine farm to jail.

A couple of things make this interesting. One is the novelty of the camp setting, which allows the boys to be in nature while still penned in by barbed wire fences. The two leads, though they never went on to bigger and better things, give solid performances; Roger Daniel as the somewhat meek but determined Jesse and James McCallion (pictured above) as Tim, the cocky boy with a soft spot inside his rough exterior. Anne Shirley, best known for playing the title role in the first sound version of ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, is good as an enslaved girl who works for the camp owners. Charles Lane, recognizable as any number of cranky old men in movies and TV right up into the 1990s, is the villainous camp owner. It’s also interesting that the rationale for the boys being on the road--to help out their struggling families--is the same as it was six years earlier in WILD BOYS. [TCM]

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